Updated: Mar 20
In this article we will look into the technique of boofing, what it is and used for and an essential creeking skill as it is. I will try to break down the skill point by point of what I believe is relevant and important. By giving good examples of skill exercises for you the paddler to work on, improving your own skills.
I´ve been teaching kayaking for over 10 years, as I´ve improved on my own kayaking skills, and learned from better kayakers that my own understanding/perception has improved. Ive learned from some of the best people in the sport and have worked under some truly insightful coaches in the industry. My knowledge of the sport might not have been the same with this contribution but I have evolved as a paddler because of the tuition.
I think it is important to point out that we can gradually progress without the treat of danger. I constantly say to my pupils, we improve our skills not by pushing on harder whitewater with great consequences, but making hard lines on easy white water with low consequences and the sense of fear is well in the background. We can then train progressively until the skill becomes so natural that it comes naturally, fear is then silenced3 and put in the background until we push ourselves on another level.
In the picture above, we have a good example of gradual progression. Finding the right features to practice on over and over with low consequences.
What is boofing?
It is a term used often by kayakers when referring to a certain move on a rapid or drop. While the kayaker has directional momentum of the boat, it is a well timed key stroke at the highest point of a drop or hole that maintains a high profile and realising the boat from the water.
I phrase the skill this way, as most people have a tendency of saying "lift to the boat up" which then puts emphasis on that specific skill doing it or making a "magic" stroke. Instead of looking at all of the other factors involved.
This is what I break it down to:
Line of approach, Timing, Body position and Paddle
We will now look at each component separately and explain what goes into each.
Line of approach:
Many kayakers underestimate the lead into a rapid while scouting, and they usually focus on the crux of the rapid/move. There is a lot of focus to break down what is happening within one drop/rapid that they simply forget to look at the entrance or
lead in to the rapid which is, majority of the time detrimental to actually running the rapid.
Top tips: While scouting we should look at where we need to be at the end of the rapid and work our way back to the starting eddy. This will give us a better understanding of how to break down the rapid and begin to pick out GPS points (certain waves, holes, rocks) that will help us pick out where we need to be in the rapid or from those points start to move (paddling) in a rapid.
We should also consider whether we need to bring lateral momentum to the rapid to break certain features (strong lateral waves, eddy lines, holes) if that lateral momentum is needed at the bottom of the rapid/drop or not. Lateral momentum or moving diagonally across the river, the boat moves better and also presents the drop visually better as the paddler approaches the high point of the drop. A river is asymetical and it is rare that we find straight drop that we paddle straight off which means our river tactics must then change.
I like to think of the timing of the stroke as similar to a long jumper in the olympics, there are similarities in how a long jumper approaches their jump to how we as kayakers approach a drop. The long jumper spends thousands of hours perfecting their style of jump and constantly looking deeply into their technique through coaching.
Lets state it like this, the long jumper runs the first 30-40 meters to gain their top speed, once they hit the second last line before jumping they start gaining their stride and rhythm, and each placed stride (longer steps) is gauging their jump before the final line jump. This is similar to what we do in kayaking. Before the drop we paddle fast to bring the boat speed up, faster than the moving water.
Once we approach our GPS point before the drop we are slowing it down and the timing/rhythm of our strokes goes down in favour of longer smoother forward paddling strokes. This means as we come to the drop we are in a cool and collected manner ready to pull the trigger, the key stroke at the lip or highest point of the drop.
For most kayakers that have nailed this technique, as they reach for those long deep strokes, everything seems slowed down in time, they have moved into the flow state. Focusing on the simple task at hand and the environment around, being immersed into this simple moment in time.
Exercise: Small waves on nice class 2-3 sections are the perfect learning environment. Pick your wave from 20-30 meters away. Find a GPS point of reference before the main wave. We need speed before GPS point and after that rhythm, long deep strokes. Moving laterally either left to right, or right to left off the main wave. As you come to the main wave your focus will then move to placement of the paddle blade and pulling through the high point (Apex of the wave). Pulling the key stroke on the down stream side.
Torso-rotation is a very important aspect that many kayakers abandon. Having good rotation can mean having the paddle earlier in the water and a further reach of 2-3 cms from a normal upright position.Working on forward paddling technique, with the inclusion of torso-rotation, will benefit in the long run.
Once we pull the trigger on the key stroke at the lip, we guide the paddle through with our body rotation. Not snapping at the stroke, pulling nicely through from toe, past the hip with good rotation. It is a given that we edge the boat downstream, this helps pulling through and opens up a bigger and longer paddle stroke.
As we spot our landing we must then bring our body forward into a crunch position on landing. This in return helps protect our back and essentially our body and boat works like a spring. We compress hitting the boily water and gradually move the body to an upright position as the body accelerates out from the drop. By compressing forward we can help the boat accelerating away.
Advice: To be a class 4 plus kayaker you need to be fit, bottom line. This means spending time in the off season at the gym, working on full body workouts. You can target muscle groups that are beneficial to kayaking such as back, core and shoulders. But being in good physical form is a definite must if you strive to paddle at a higher level.
Ah the paddle, here we can see a lot of bad habits that have formed over the years that do not help in the outcome of running the drop. Trigger pulling on the lower arm, can force the boat to quickly rise, but with loss of blade pressure the boat drops off, either submerging or possibly going over the handle bars. Letting the top arm hang, can mean that the paddle does not follow its full trajectory thus the boat drops off.
Long deep strokes, pulling through from the toe through past the hip with torso rotation. With both of these factors, we should be able to develop blade pressure before the highest point, letting it build up and pulling the trigger at the highest point. We should know before we approach the drop if we will take a left or right key stroke. Essentially letting the paddle go through the motions of the stroke without any jurks/offset motions.
At this moment our whole body is engaged from head to toe. Head- eyeing the landing, Core/back- engaged & rotating through the stroke, Arms- going through the motions, Leg/Foot- tensioned & pushing through the footplate, usually the same side as the paddle stroke, although this can differ from paddler to paddler.
Often we need to bring it back to the basics, Re-examine our forward paddling stroke, evaulate what needs to be corrected and adjust appropriately. Videoing yourself and getting valuable coaching feedback should improve your learning progression.
Exercises to improve the overall technique: Edging circles- On flat water, start by paddling forward gaining momentum. Then we can take a sweep stroke on the opposite side that we will edge on and then take inside strokes on the same side we edge on. Long deep paddle strokes through good torso rotation. We engage the whole body. Here we can fully examine the fundamentals of the technique.
So in all, when we scout we should look at where we are coming from to where we will end up, making a good line of approach. Timing is a critical in kayaking, it is something we should work on and only get better as the more we practice. This can be the defining factor from good to excellent kayakers, how good their timing and reaction is. Body position, an often forgotten necessary movement that needs to be trained.
The paddle, bring it back to the basics. Re-examine your forward paddling stroke, break it down and get feedback from a coach.
Finally, we improve by paddling harder lines on easy whitewater with lower consequences, and gradually stepping up bit by bit. Until it becomes so natural that we do it naturally.
Do you want us to cover other paddling topics? Send us an email and let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally enjoy this picture of Nico on the last waterfall on Marinejuvet on the Raundalselva, he is fully rotated, boat nicely on edge allowing the body to be open, the paddle blade is planted letting the blade pressure build up, eyes on the prices aka the landing. Letting the good times roll!!!